5 Times You Should Avoid Editing Wikipedia

Wikipedia is a study in contradictions: it's highly informative, but sometimes also misleading. It invites anyone to edit, but only if you can follow its exacting rules. And Wikipedia would prefer you to avoid editing some topics you know best, such as your employer.

Here at Beutler Ink, we take pride in helping to resolve some of these contradictions, especially working to find common ground between Wikipedia's editorial community and the people and organizations covered in its virtual pages.

However, there are many circumstances that even we can't help resolve, and the best we can do is explain why and offer an alternate suggestion. This blog post explores 5 of the most common circumstances where trying to influence just Wikipedia isn't worth it:

When your topic isn't eligible for a Wikipedia entry

The problem: There are many more companies who would like to have a Wikipedia entry than actually meet Wikipedia's eligibility requirements. That rule is called "Notability" which can lead to the unintentionally insulting response: "Sorry, you're not notable." For the company denied inclusion, there is no satisfactory alternative. For a Wikipedia editor who finds out the company has created one anyway, dealing with the situation can be frustrating.

The solution: Just because you aren't "notable" now doesn't mean you will never be. Criteria for inclusion depends on doing exceptional work and being recognized for it. If you can generate sustained and in-depth media coverage, you'll have a better chance of getting Wikipedia to cover you as well.

When you don't have a source for what you want to say

The problem: One Wikipedia policy that many find surprising the first time they hear of it is "Verifiability": just because you know a particular fact is true doesn't mean it necessarily belongs in Wikipedia. Let's say your company just opened three new offices overseas, and you'd like to see that detail included in your company's Wikipedia entry. If it hasn't made news, it won't make the Wikipedia entry.

The solution: Just like "notability," the concept of "verifiability" usually depends on a third party finding reason to write about it. In most cases industry news, especially publications with a national reach, is the answer. If you can't prove it, don't add it.

When your goal is only to add links back to your website

The problem: Wikipedia's prominence and open-editing policy makes it an attractive nuisance for SEO purposes. Even though Wikipedia long ago applied the "nofollow" attribute to reduce the value of its outbound links, some SEO consultants include it in their plans nonetheless. But Wikipedia does not want to merely be an extension of anyone's marketing campaign.

The solution: If your website is recognized as a reliable source (usually academic or journalistic in nature) and you have new, unique information to add, then it's probably appropriate. In almost all other circumstances, ask first or think about adding it to Reddit instead.

When your involvement might actually make things worse

The problem: Every once in awhile, we'll hear from a brand that wants to add some positive news to their entry, but when we start our research, we find major negative stories not currently included on the page. In these cases, we'll advise: the price of getting the good news included is being OK with seeing the bad news added as well.

The solution: If it's worth including accurate criticisms in order to get new positive information added, then we can help. But if the majority of news about you is critical, perhaps you should let it be.

When you value Wikipedia's publicity value more than Wikipedia's values

The problem: If Wikipedia editors don't think your edits improve the encyclopedia, you'll be advised to steer clear, or they will be removed. If you ignore the rules and go ahead because your boss is adamant that Wikipedia mention every award your company received last year, you've got a real problem, because Wikipedia's community will not let you win this one.


The solution: You can't follow the rules if you don't know the rules. Unfortunately, Wikipedia's basic rules run to hundreds of pages. Our newsletter, Wikipedia in 60 Seconds, aims to break things down one concept at a time. And take this to heart: if you want to be taken seriously by Wikipedia, you need to take their rules seriously, too.